Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Killing Innovation Through Standardization

Have you ever encountered a program, a product, or an educational practice that is worthy enough to be implemented state-wide or even district-wide? I haven't. Really, in almost 30 years as an educator I've outlasted more programs and initiatives than I can count. Most of these were not adopted based on their merits. They most often were adopted because their promoters were great at sales pitches. It turns out that I've begun to think that we've become much better at salesmanship sometimes than our chief task of educating.

I have a hunch regarding why these district-wide and state-wide, or even national improvement initiatives don't work. It's rather simple: you can't standardize true innovation. Schools are individual, quirky, unique entities like the students in them. Innovation can only occur at the school level. Trying to standardize an innovation at the district or state level is an exercise in windmill jousting, or nailing jello to a tree. Nothing sticks, nor will it ever. It turns out that innovation is local. We talk about "personalizing learning for students, then why not localize innovations? Let's start innovation at the level of the school.  Imposing innovation from on high doesn't work nor will it ever.

Next time you start thinking as a district or state education leader that some program or idea would be great for all my schools, just remember you really can't standardize innovation.

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